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Late night thoughts... women changing surnames after marriage

417 replies

FatJan · 02/10/2021 00:44

Not sure if this is the right board as I'm not fully sure where I'm going with this yet! Feels vaguely right, but happy for it to be moved.

Basically, I was scrolling through social media this evening and clicked on a post from a girl I knew at school which had got lots of comments.

As I scrolled down the post, I saw a load of comments from women whose names I didn't recognise.

I thought it was a bit strange I didn't recognise/couldn't remember who they were because the post was about something that happened at the school, and they were all talking as if they'd been there.

Suddenly I realised that I did actually know all of the women - they were all girls from our year.

I hadn't realised because they've all got married and now have their husbands' surnames.

It gave me a weird and not particularly pleasant feeling.

I haven't followed these ladies' lives over the years as they weren't in my close friendship circle, but I remember them well and how they were as children and teenagers.

Something about the fact that the identities they had when they were young no longer exist (on paper anyway) and they all have their husbands' names now made me feel a bit upset, which surprised me.

I'm trying to explore that feeling and I thought writing it down/sharing it might be a good place to start.

Obviously being happily married isn't a bad thing, so I think it's more the (perceived) loss of old identity thing that has given me a jolt, probably linked to the fact that men get to keep theirs.

I think it was also related to the fact it wasn't just one woman with a new name, it was the entire friendship group. It made it seem like the 'thing' to do, and I suppose it is, although I'm not sure how I feel about that. Some of the girls were very outspoken feminist types and to see them all as wives now with their husbands' name was a bit unexpected.

To be honest, I've been very in-my-head with the Sarah and Sabina cases and the ongoing discussions around things women go through that men don't, and this might be impacting the way I responded emotionally to that particular post.

Does the above make sense at all? Has anyone noticed or felt something similar?

OP posts:

nellly · 02/10/2021 00:54

I am choosing to take dhs surname as I was given mine when my mum remarried and changed my surname to step dads, I have no connection to it and want to be the same as my husband and son and this is logistically the easiest way. It wouldn't for one second occur to me that anyone else was entitled to an opinion on that!
Nor do I have any opinion on friends changing their name Smile


Chesneyhawkes1 · 02/10/2021 00:56

I haven't changed mine. But most of my friends have. Some double barrelled them.

I just wanted to keep my own name


TrampolineForMrKite · 02/10/2021 01:04

I definitely feel it’s sad, a loss of some sort. When I married I did double barrel and play about with combinations and kept it that way for several years, but once I had DD1 I just couldn’t see a hyphened situation that made sense. My DH was willing to change his surname too but everything seemed either downright ugly or at the very least convoluted and a mouthful. My birth surname was fine but when we brought it up to DHs parents they lost their shit (FIL actually cried and then proceeded to be a total wanker about the whole thing). Whereas when we had a heart to heart with my parents said they didn’t care and I believe that was genuine. As such we stuck with the status quo and all went with my husbands surname. Which is ironic because my parents are the ones far more involved in my children’s lives, but then that was the case for my maternal grandparents too.

That said, my perception of it may be slightly different in some ways as my original surname was the name of my paternal grandfather who left when my Dad was still a baby. He never met him again and we certainly didn’t- my Dad went on to be brought up by his maternal grandparents, who had a different surname- so the name I had, whilst mine, didn’t feel steeped in history or filled with love or anything. It kind of felt more like a random label from some random sperm donor. I appreciate that that’s an unusual exact situation but many people do have the surname of an absent father or absent grandfather. Perhaps I might have made more of a stand for my surname if I’d felt it was connected more to a greater history; perhaps lots of people feel this way.

Also, I’m the eighth eldest daughter of an eldest daughter, that maternal line stretches back unbroken into the 17th century. None of us were named with the surname our mothers were born with, doesn’t make us less of a chain of mothers and daughters. It’s just a label in the way our forenames are too, and actually what my maternal family does have is a very strong culture of honour forenames, so whilst that line of women’s surnames are all different, many of the first names are threads running through the decades and centuries. Is that less valid than a surname? My forename feels far more like “my” name than either surname I’ve had.

Currently there’s no perfect solution that I can think of and I don’t think that you can underestimate how much people all want “the same name to be a family” when they have kids. That’s been the reason for name changes upon marriage/the birth of their first child for everyone of my age (mid 30s) that I know.

Sorry if that’s not hugely coherent; it’s certainly not an argument for or against either option and was a bit of a brain dump, but I will agree @FatJan that I certainly do have complicated feelings around the issue. It’s not all clear in my mind, not by a long shot.


vodkaredbullgirl · 02/10/2021 01:12

I changed mine when I married in the 90's. Since divorced 2007. I've still kept my married name.


PermanentTemporary · 02/10/2021 01:24

It's been discussed as an issue for a long time. I regret changing my name in my first marriage as my husband at least theoretically wasn't bothered. For me, there was a very strong and illogical feeling that if I didn't change my name i wasn't married. Part of me also liked the detachment from my previous self and what has always felt at times my overwhelming family.

The administration was an ovaryache though, and then when I remarried there was more, because at that point having a child already it made no sense not to drop XH's name. But I could have gone back to my family name; I just didn't. I did lots of things to prove my attachment to dh.


BakingOfTheFoodCats · 02/10/2021 01:26

Most people change it so they can have the same name as their kids. (If they have any)


TractorAndHeadphones · 02/10/2021 01:29

I have 2 surnames and will just drop one and replace with DP. I’m from a different culture hence the two surnames.
Mixed feelings - it’s nice for a family to have the same name but I don’t think it should be a patronymic. Just howveer jas the nicer name


Ijustreallywantacat · 02/10/2021 01:31

I'm umming and ahhing about it. I like my name, strong family history. But then my fiancé is the last male in the family to carry on the name, and if we had sprogs it would be nice if we all had the same name...but then I don't have the same name as my mum and I'm not bitter about it? It would sound awful double barrelled. Don't know. Think it's a bit off to say that women lose their identity if they change their name. I certainly don't think so. It doesn't change them as a person, and given the multitude of reasons someone might have for changing their name, I don't think it is unfeminist.


starrynight21 · 02/10/2021 01:32

Something about the fact that the identities they had when they were young no longer exist

I don't see it that way at all. I've had three surnames since I've been married twice and changed my name both times. I haven't ceased to exist, I'm still the same person as I was when young. My name is different but that hasn't taken anything away from me.


ArblemarchTFruitbat · 02/10/2021 01:37

My maiden name wasn't very likeable so I was happy to adopt my husband's name. If I'd have had a nice maiden name I'd have kept it.


DollyPartBaked · 02/10/2021 01:46

I think it's a personal decision. I kept my name but I'm not sure whether that's because I feel strongly that it's my name or whether because I didn't like my DH's very common surname.

Our children have both but considering dropping my one for school purposes to make things easier for them. I actually feel quite sad about it!


Cameleongirl · 02/10/2021 01:49


My maiden name wasn't very likeable so I was happy to adopt my husband's name. If I'd have had a nice maiden name I'd have kept it.

Same here. I took DH's name, because I preferred it to my maiden name.

OnceUponAThread · 02/10/2021 01:54

It's very interesting/ telling that lots of times people mention changing to have the same name as potential children. Why is it that children can't take the mum's surname, and then if men feel strongly about it they can switch? Seems a non-sequitur that women must change if they want to match their kids.

Also I do feel like people justify it every which way (not liking maiden names, wanting to match, etc etc) but the fact that the vast majority take husband's name while very few men take women's does suggest patriarchy at play?

Personally I'll be keeping mine. I have built up a career under my name, so I won't be giving that up. And if we manage to conceive, child will be having my surname. I think DH would in theory happily have mine, but he has two DDs from a previous marriage and wouldn't want to swap away from them, which is fair enough.


BakingOfTheFoodCats · 02/10/2021 02:01

Well I would rather all have the same name as a family but that’s just me 🤷‍♀️


EggAndHasBeans · 02/10/2021 02:03

I suppose everyone is different but I don't see my name as "me", it's not who I am, just what I'm called. Maybe if DH's surname was hideous or difficult to pronounce/spell etc I would have kept mine.


Bombaloorina · 02/10/2021 02:07

Always so interesting that women don’t like their maiden name - so they take their husband’s.

Never the other way around. Presumably some of you have brothers - I bet they’ve kept their surname….


whatswithtodaytoday · 02/10/2021 02:11

Yes, personally I really dislike it and there definitely have been moments where I've been reading Facebook and gone 'Who the fuck is X and why are they on my Facebook? ... oh, she got married. Right.'

I also find it weird at work. You have a professional identity with one name, why scrap that and start again in your early-mid-30s?

It wouldn't annoy me quite so much if it were equal. If men were just as likely as women to change their name, fine... but it's not. And that is because of the patriarchy.

I'm not married, but if I were I wouldn't change my name. Our child has my name and no-one batted an eyelid. (I suspect my MIL was annoyed, but she hid it well.)


foxgoosefinch · 02/10/2021 02:18

It always amazes me that younger women do this still, but then I work in academia where most married women under 50 have kept their names as a matter of course (especially if they’ve published under their name). I know a lot more women who haven’t changed their names than have.

I’m always a bit shocked when women do tbh. One of my sisters changed hers and her husband’s name is really awful (think Onions kind of thing). I’d only ever consider changing if the destination name was aesthetically very lovely and much more so than mine! 😂


marplemead · 02/10/2021 02:23

I changed my surname, because my maiden name reminded me of my absent father. I did feel a little sad to lose it, but I much prefer my new one. If I'd had a surname that was given to me with love, then I would have kept it.


Lockdownbear · 02/10/2021 02:31

I kept my own name for work. But stuff related to the family, my kids I use my married name. And regularly I confuse the living daylights out myself, when it comes to random stuff.Blush

Having a family name certainly makes stuff easier with kids. I get the tradition that the DH family name was taken by the wife, and her name then given to the children.

What other women do is entirely their choice. And that's the important thing their choice.


CBUK2K2 · 02/10/2021 02:38

@foxgoosefinch What if your future partner wanted you to?


NCBlossom · 02/10/2021 02:45

You have my sympathy as I feel exactly the same. I am amazed at how all the women o grew up with have all changed their names.

One or two didn’t get married. However their kids all took the fathers name.

I do feel sad. The person and their identity is in some ways now subsumed into someone else’s. Names are really important.

Of course I understand a lot of why they did. And I know that I have to remain totally quiet and never comment. They on the other hand, have made a lot of judgements and assumptions because I kept my name. I feel quite exposed as in reaction women have insinuated that I am a radical feminist, or very controlling, or with a weak husband or whatever.


LobsterNapkin · 02/10/2021 03:20

I think you could flip it around. Who you were in the past isn't going to go away, it's made you who you are. But you also become a new person, and some people can feel that's reflected in some outward sign like a change of name. Especially if they feel more connected to the people they share the new name with.

I didn't change mine, but I sometimes wish I had, so it would be the same as my kids' names. My husband could have changed his too of course, but it comes more or less to the same thing either way.


foxgoosefinch · 02/10/2021 07:46

[quote CBUK2K2]@foxgoosefinch What if your future partner wanted you to?[/quote]
Why would a partner want me to? What reason would they have? Some kind of outdated sense of ownership?

I very much doubt I’d have a relationship with someone who did! And I have no intention of ever getting married so that wouldn’t come up anyway. (If I ever did consider marrying it would probably be to a woman, for one thing… Wink)


Aroundtheworldin80moves · 02/10/2021 07:53

I wish I kept mine as a middle name. We did look at adding it as a middle name to both mine and DDs names a few years ago but never did in the end.

Everyone presumes your name is the same as your childrens.

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